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25 days of Ausmas: Edu Pou, We Are Social on Freixenet's The Key to Reserva

Every day an advertising creative from Australia and New Zealand will offer their own favourite Christmas campaign from over the years as we celebrate the best work from the festive period the world over and hear their views on what is best in class.

Christmas has become the new Super Bowl. Year after year, brands try to one-up each other with charming and emotional stories. At the other side of the screen, the audience is waiting, holding imaginary scores, like Olympic judges at a competition of gymnastics. Everybody's familiar with the rulebook that defines the scoring system, so the verdict is usually unanimous. "The Key to Reserva" escapes that canon.

Let me give some context to the campaign. In Spain, every Christmas the brand of sparkling wine (cava) Freixenet stuck to the same formula, established in 1977 by the recently deceased creative Leopoldo Pomés. Women in gold bodysuits, the so-called "burbujas" (bubbles), performed a choreography, dancing around international celebrities, who gave a Christmas toast. Year after year, stars like Paul Newman, Liza Minelli, Antonio Banderas, Penélope Cruz, Kim Basinger or Pierce Brosnan would raise their glasses to the audience. Other than the casting, not much changed. Until 2007.

The 14 of December of 2007, Freixenet decided to try something different. Radically different. They launched a 10-minute film, starring, written, and directed by Martin Scorsese. The story couldn't be further away from Freixenet's usual sexified dancing bubbles. The premise was that Scorsese discovered three and a half pages of an unproduced Alfred Hitchcock film and shot the story following Hitchcock's style. The film—as you may have guessed—was entitled "The Key to Reserva", and Reserva—you might have guessed this one, too—is the name of the most famous Freixenet wine.

Both the role of the product in the movie (within the movie) and the homage to Hitchcock are absolute. The music of the commercial is the main theme of North by Northwest, and the ending scene shows Scorsese, after viewing the film, discussing upcoming projects as crows flock around his building. The craft of this project is exquisite, but that's about the only thing it has in common with other Christmas campaigns. There's no room for Santa between Scorsese and Hitchcock.

Somebody defined this campaign as "10 minutes of pure branded content before branded content existed." That's probably a bit too much, but it was undoubtedly a bold move. One that sparked conversation and generated a heated debate in traditional and social media between those who celebrated a fresh approach beyond the conventions and those who saw it as nothing short of blasphemous. Taking risks never pleases everyone... Except for advertising juries, in this case. "The Key to Reserva" got several awards in shows like Cannes Lions, LIA, the One Show, and the Clios, proving that in Christmas being naughty also pays off.

Edu Pou, executive creative director, We Are Social Sydney

Check out the latest holiday ads from Australia and New Zealand here, and keep an eye on The Drum's ongoing Christmas coverage.

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